Daily Beast: Lawmakers Fume About Trump Admin’s Lack of Iran Explanation After ‘Insulting’ Briefing

Washington, January 8, 2020
Lawmakers Fume About Trump Admin’s Lack of Iran Explanation After ‘Insulting’ Briefing

By Sam Brodey, Betsy Swan & Spencer Ackerman - 01/08/2020

A day after Iranian ballistic missiles hit Iraqi bases used by U.S. forces, the Trump administration’s first briefings on Iran for legislators went so poorly that even its allies walked out saying that the White House was losing congressional support.

At a moment when the Middle East is asking if the U.S. and Iran can avoid confrontation, senators and representatives said that briefings from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire were risible in their lack of detail concerning core concerns, including the intelligence behind the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and the future course of U.S. strategy against Tehran. Meanwhile, briefers also raised concerns that U.S. forces in Iraq could face heightened threats from Iran-allied Shiite militias in the wake of Soleimani’s death.

Sen. Mike Lee, a libertarian-leaning Utah Republican who rarely breaks with Trump, exited the Senate’s briefing calling it “the worst briefing on a military issue” he’s seen in nine years in Congress. It was “insulting,” Lee said—so much so that he will now support a measure to curb Trump’s authority to wage war in Iran after hinting a day before that he’d vote. 

Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, has also echoed those concerns.

“I am far more concerned about the danger of Shiite militias, especially because of the killing of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, which has gotten far less attention but may lead to additional reprisals against our people there,” he told The Daily Beast.

In contrast, Secretary of State Pompeo recently declared that “the world is a safer place” because Soleimani is dead. And Vice President Mike Pence told CBS News that U.S. intelligence shows Iran has asked militias not to target American troops. 

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